Safety Awareness

Today’s insight discusses safety awareness. The dangers of smoke, chemicals, gas, spoiled food, and human waste for your loved one with dementia.

Transcription of Video:

Hi, I’m Deb Nygaard with Arthur’s Residential Care presenting today’s Insights from Arthur’s.

Today I want to talk to you about losing safety awareness. As your loved one with dementia is progressing through the disease, they are going to lose their aversive response to things like smoke, chemicals, gas, spoiled food, and even human waste. If your loved one is living at home alone, these are really big concerns.

So let’s pose a little scenario here. Let’s say as the dutiful daughter you have been making meals for your mom and stacking them up in her refrigerator. All she has to do is take one out and pop it in the microwave. Well, you didn’t notice that one got pushed to the back of the fridge. When you show up to her house you notice that your mother is eating a meal from a month ago. It was a chicken breast and broccoli that is covered in slimy mold. The smell of it is overpowering when you come into the house.

There are some things that you need to notice in this situation. Take notice of the expression on your face. You look unhappy and your mother doesn’t know why. She thinks that she is doing a good job and eating the things that you have prepared for her. So why would you be coming in so cranky. You will want to ensure your expression is one that is positive and pleasant. Recognize that she doesn’t know she is eating spoiled food because she can’t smell or taste it. She is losing those sensations. If its at all possible say, “I think that meal is spoiled.” If she is not going to let you take it away because she is thinking ‘waste not want not’ you want to try substitution. You could say, “Mom, can we have lunch together? There is enough of this other meal, let’s have this one instead.” Pull out some other food. If that doesn’t seem to work you could say something like, “Mom, it looks like that cooled off. Can I warm it up for you in the microwave?” See if you can get the spoiled meal away from her.

Here is another scenario that is a little less pleasant, but I think it’s a real issue that you need to think about. Let’s say that your mother has lost the awareness of when it’s time to use the bathroom and she soiled herself. She doesn’t notice that she has done it. As she is sitting on the couch she has an itch on her backside because she notices that something is a bit uncomfortable. As she does, she now has feces on her hand and yet doesn’t know it. From there she gives her head a scratch and then tries to rub something off of her pants. As she does this she notices that her pants don’t get clean. She examines her hands and thinks that she must have chocolate on her hands from making a cake this morning. She proceeds to do a taste test. Now imagine what you reaction is. What is the expression on your face? Did you mother start out the beginning of the day with the intention of ruining your afternoon? Did she intentionally want to create more work for you? No, she didn’t. She just doesn’t have the safety awareness. All of her actions were very innocent. But your face expressed that you are imagining hours worth of cleanup as well as expense. Recognize that what your mother is doing is not intentionally bad. It is simply that her safety awareness is gone.

If you do happen to walk into this scenario, take a deep breath and school your expression to calm and pleasant. Then say, “Mom, it looks like you have something on your fingers. Why don’t we go and wash that off and as long as we are going that way, let’s stop in the bathroom. One of my favorite lines is ‘never pass up an opportunity to pee.’ Isn’t that something your mother would have told you when you were traveling?” This will give you the opportunity to get her clean. Get her distracted with something else, such as lunch, as you clean up other areas.

I’m Deb Nygaard with Arthur’s Residential Care.

Contact Deb Nygaard
Director of Development
Arthur’s Residential Care: 651-429-4798